When Shell initially announced that they were going to hold the Eco-Marathon in Manila, we were definitely interested.
Last year Shell cancelled the same event on the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia following the South East Asian Haze that literally cast a shadow over it. Soon after, the company eyed new locations to hold SEM Asia, with Manila being chosen. Given the fact that the one of the world's biggest motoring events geared for fuel efficiency was being held in a city within a country rife with politics, red tape, traffic and a general disregard for ecology, we thought it was admirable though a little ironic.
In the run up to the actual event (which flagged off today, February 7), organizers already closed off the roads surrounding the open field fronting the Quirino Grandstand and the Manila Hotel, effectively creating a rectangular circuit for the teams from many, many Asian countries to drive as economically on.
Many have voiced their support of the student-teams competing in the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia in Manila, as the event has 109 entries from all over Asia. Of course there is a strong support for the 15 homegrown student-teams from the Philippines, such as Mapua, Don Bosco and UST are competing. My own alma mater, DLSU, is fielding a team of mechanical engineering students, so you know who we're rooting for.
Needless to say, a bit of rerouting had to be done on a particularly busy area of the City of Manila, and that caught the ire of many citizens, especially those who have to ply the affected streets.
On our Facebook page, some commenters voiced out their annoyance at the holding of the event, stating things like Shell “could've done this in Tagaytay or Clark or Subic or somewhere less congested than Manila”. Another said “if you want to organize an event don't do it in Manila because you're causing very heavy traffic since our [roads are not built] for any event”.
Those are indeed very valid concerns from netizens; traffic is bad enough without an event like the Shell Eco-Marathon, and the media has taken notice. The organizers are currently being blasted on print, on air and online.
Not to defend the organizers on the traffic issue, but how is it different from other major events in the Metro that have caused widespread traffic? How different is the traffic caused by the Christmas rush or a political rally? How different is the traffic whenever some international superstars like One Direction, Beyonce, Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber come to town for a concert? Too big? Let's keep it simple: how about when SM chooses to hold a 3-day sale?
Yeah, Metro Manila traffic is a mess of unmanageable proportions. It was like that before these events came, it will be like that long after they pack up the speakers, the stage and the tents. But why could the traffic and the hassle be worth it for an event like the hosting of the Shell Eco Marathon Asia?
An event like this is an investment: we have to pay a price to pave the way for bigger and better things.
We want better roads, so we have to endure the traffic while it is being constructed or maintained. We want a nice new mall close to our house, so we have to endure the noise, the dust and the traffic caused by SM, Robinson's, Ayala and the other companies. We want a brand new home in a nice, flood-free location, so we have to endure paying the monthly amortizations for the next 10, 20 or so years. We want children, so we have to endure sleepless nights, diapers, tuition and more.
These are the prices we pay for something better, the growing pains, so to speak, and the traffic for hosting of the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia in Manila is one of them. If we're complaining now, imagine the complaints Singaporeans made when their government decided to hold a Formula One race on a street circuit there.
Needless to say, the Shell Eco Marathon Asia is an opportunity, one that is sorely needed in a country that is fast becoming (if not already) the land of missed opportunities.
We've done things like squander a brand new international airport terminal, so now we have to deal with a dilapidated terminal that bears the name of the President's dad. We've thrown away billions of tax money by mothballing things like a nuclear power plant before it even churned out a megawatt of electricity. We don't have to look very far: our jeepneys are so old that scientists can carbon date them, but our 'leaders' lack the political will to forge a path to replace them with something far more efficient and more effective.
Having a big regional event like the Shell Eco Marathon Asia here only raises the prestige of Manila, not to mention the added tourism and income generated by the participants and visitors in hotels, establishments, so on and so forth.
We dream of having places like like a Disneyland or a Universal Studios, but will they ever put one up since we'll always find ways to criticize such an investment? We dream of someday hosting events like the FIBA championships, Miss Universe (for some) and the maybe even the Olympics. We dream of hosting an international race like the way Monaco, Macau or Singapore does, but we can't even fully get behind something that's less complex like the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia now running in Luneta.
Just something to think about.
Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below